As the door to one of the units at Nyathi Rest Camp opens my finger stumbles up against the wall in search of a light switch; the sun is long gone and a black-backed jackal breaks the silence of the bush in the dark distance with a wail.
I have no idea what to expect.
Nyathi Rest Camp is the newest addition to the Addo Elephant National Park family – I’ve heard that there are beautiful views with wildlife sightings from the comfort of your deck and that it is luxury at its best with four stars to prove it – but I still have no idea what to expect.
The searching stumbling finger stops. A light switch is in reach. My eyes adjust from the darkness as the first light reveals the self-catering kitchen and another reveals the living room.
A door open to my right, a door open to my left; one light and one more light show an elegantly decorated room with earthy tones and an eclectic selection of textures and shapes. I waltz over to the bathroom, anticipation reaches a crescendo as I find the light: a stone bath with its copper details bursts out in a symphony of style as the other door leads to another balcony.
A voice from behind beckons me back into the kitchen, “But wait, that’s not all.”
Another door, another balcony, another light, another surprise.
From the balcony the braai area is just a step away and then, as I turn around to take it all in, the best part of Nyathi Rest Camp stares me in the face with its blue-blue eyes: a plunge pool. And not just any plunge pool, a private plunge pool.
With still no idea what view waits behind the darkness of the night I doze off while making plans to come back to Nyathi Rest Camp, another wow in Addo Elephant National Park.
A bit more about Nyathi Rest Camp
Nyathi Rest Camp was previously a catered concession known as Nguni Lodge within the Addo National Park region but about 7 years ago the holding company left the premises and nature took its course, or more specifically, the baboons took their course and moved in. When SANParks decided to renovate there was a whole lot of monkey business to clean up and they basically had to start from scratch.
There are eleven units at Nyathi Rest Camp (from two-sleeper units, to a four-sleeper as well as family units which sleep six each) and every unit, which is set on the banks of a floodplain, boasts a view of the Zuurberg Mountain range. It’s more a multi-view than just a view because you can enjoy the scenery from the comfort of your bed, from the massive stone bath or shower, from the deck of your bathroom, from the deck of your bedroom, from the deck of the living area, from the living area, from the dining table, from the kitchen, from the braai spot, from the private splash pool (yes, each unit has one) or from the waterhole which is accessible by foot.
The beauty of staying at this camp is that you can actually stay put, enjoy the facilities, get busy in the kitchen and still enjoy Addo’s wildlife without actually getting in your car. The Nyathi section of Addo Elephant National Park has the same type of game as in the main game viewing area, and the big five roam here as well. And if you do feel like going on a game drive – whether self-guided or not – Nyathi Rest Camp is only 12 km from the main camp.
I know I have mentioned this before, but there is a private plunge pool! I can just imagine cooling off here in summer while listening to the bird calls and watching animals go about their day.
Nyathi Rest Camp officially opened during SANParks’ open week on the 11th of September in 2016 by the Minister of Environmental Affairs, Dr. Edna Molewa, but the camp only opened its doors to the public for booking since April 2017.
Rates for a two-sleeper start at R1650 (out of season) and it goes up to R3650 for four people in a six-sleeper.
Addo National Park: A Firm Favourite for Visitors and Locals Alike
In true tranquil Addo-style, these last two months at Nyati Rest Camp have been extremely quiet due to its secluded location, but definitely not quiet when it comes to bookings.
Addo Elephant National Park, now the third largest national park in South Africa with 178 000 hectares, has one of the highest accommodation occupancies and more than 200 000 guests visit this park in a year.
It is easy to understand why this park is loved by so many, especially foreign visitors; its close proximity to Port Elizabeth airport, and the port for cruise ships, gives guests easy access to the park and the opportunity to see animals in their natural habitat within 30 minutes after leaving the city. For Nelson Mandela Bay locals, the park is also a firm favourite for a weekend getaway or just a day drive with a braai at Jack’s Picnic Site within the game viewing area. You could also head to Cattle Baron, the á la carte restaurant at the main camp which also offers a buffet lunch on Sundays.
Watch this video of Nyathi Rest Camp and the activities in and around the Park.
Things to do when visiting Addo Elephant National Park
If you can drag yourself away from the wildlife you’ll find that there is more to do in Addo Elephant National Park and the surrounding areas than meets the eye.
Let’s start in the Park
A Game Drive
When it comes to a game drive in Addo you are spoilt for choice, whether you prefer to drive yourself, go on a guided game drive with a ranger or hire a hop-on guide to drive with you. Adhere to the rules, don’t get out of your car or lean out of the window, take your time and stick to the speed limit.
Cost of a self-guided game drive: Your car, your petrol.
Cost of a guided game drive: R340-370.
Cost of hiring a hop-on guide: R210-R550 (depending on your vehicle).
Go on a Stroll
Walk one of the short PPC Discovery Trails where you can find detailed information about the Park on big boards along the way. There is also a 620m trail that is wheelchair-friendly.
Get on a Horse
If you want to experience Addo and its animals in a completely different way, then get on a horse! Horse trails start from Addo Main Camp and venture into the Nyathi area, and yes, the big five also roam there. If you prefer a more scenic trail then go to Zuurberg where there is no large game, or if you are a pro of note, try the overnight trail to Narina Bush Camp.
Cost of a horse trail in Addo Elephant National Park: R470-R510.
Cost of a horse trail in Zuurberg Mountain section of the Park: R230-R300.
Cost of an overnight trail: R590 per horse, per day.
Picnic, Restaurant, Park’s Shop and Ulwazi Interpretive Centre
Guests can enjoy a braai at Jack’s picnic site (named after one of the first Black Rhinos that called Addo home) where there are also bathroom facilities or you can dine at Cattle Baron Restaurant. The Park’s Shop offers everything and more from curios to more curios, braai wood, meat, drinks and snacks. Stop by the Ulwazi Interpretive Centre to learn more about the legend of Hapoor and Domkrag as well as the rich history of Addo Elephant National Park.
A Waterhole View and a Hide or Two
A short walk from the restaurant will bring you to a viewing platform overlooking a waterhole where animals frequently sip during the day. There is also an underground hide and a wetland bird-hide. All these spots are wheelchair-friendly albeit the path to the underground hide is quite steep.
Venture out of the Park
If you are looking for more adventure then you only need to take a short drive out of the park.
Sandboarding at Sundays River is a perfect stop if you’re travelling to or from Addo Elephant National Park and plan to enter/exit from the Matyholweni Gate. Sundays River Adventures offers river cruises, water sports, sand boarding and you can even spend a night on a house boat! No skills necessary and trust someone who has awful balance, you don’t even need a whole lot of balance. Yes you will plummet into a dune and yes, there will be sand, but it is definitely a whole lot of fun!
Cost of 1 Hour River Cruise: R250 p/person.
Cost of a 3 Hour Sand boarding and Boat Trip: R600 p/person.
Cost of 2.5 Hour Cruise on the Sundays River: R350 p/person.
If you want to soar like an eagle then hop on to the highest, longest and fastest double zip line in South Africa or, if you prefer to be a human slingshot, you can try the giant swing. Adrenalin Addo also offers visitors the chance to get in a canoe and paddle down the Sundays River and they promise that the birdlife along the way is simply spectacular.
Cost of Zip Line: R300 p/person.
Cost of Giant Swing: R150 p/person.
Cost of Canoeing: R100 p/person.
Want to know more?
In this blog post – The Disappearing Act of the Addo Elephants – I’ve written about different roads that will take you to Addo Elephant National Park; have a read if you are unsure which road is best to take.
For more information about Nyathi Rest Camp, as well as the activities on offer, visit SANParks’ website.
Disclaimer: My stay at Nyathi Rest Camp formed part of a SANParks media trip, same with Sundays Rivier Adventures and Adrenalin Addo. As always, all opinions are my own.